Finishing up the series on Colorado Avalanche player grades, let’s take a look at the goalies. Goaltending has been a strong suit for the Avalanche over the past few seasons; this year, however, goaltending was like pretty much everything else on the team: inconsistent.
Semyon Varlamov: C+/B-
People get very sensitive when it comes to criticizing Varlamov, and I understand why. For the last three years the goaltenders have had to do far too much to make sure that the team could win games, frequently being hung out to dry in the process. It’s not that that stopped happening this season, because it definitely happened a lot, it was much more the way that Varlamov dealt with the more average situations. There were several stretches of the season where Varlamov was fantastic, showing that Vezina finalist form and winning games for the Avalanche. At the same time, however, there were far too many stretches where Varlamov was not just pedestrian, he was bad.
His goals against was a bit high at 2.81, but his save percentage (.914) wasn’t terrible. It’s a bit lower than his past couple of seasons but is basically league average. Generally speaking, Varlamov did enough to help his team win games but wasn’t as big of a factor as he needed to be in order to win games. Some of that falls on him and some of that falls on a team that was unable to close out games in front of him.
Reto Berra: Pass
Berra gets a pass on the season. He started out strong and seemed to have finally figured out how to be a consistent backup in the NHL, but then got hurt. The worst part was that his injury had nothing to do with hockey, it happened before a game while the team was playing with a soccer ball in the hallway warming up before a game.
Roy didn't pull Varlamov because Berra suffered ankle injury playing soccer pregame in hallway. MRI tomorrow #Avs
— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) December 22, 2015
By the time he was healthy, Calvin Pickard was up and playing well for the Avalanche in the backup role, so Berra spent the second half of the 2015-2016 season in the AHL.
Calvin Pickard: B
Calvin Pickard gets a solid B for his play. He came in and showed that he was more than just a prospect and could now handle the rigors of playing in the NHL. He gave the Avalanche a chance to win on the nights that he was in net. His goals against average (2.56) and save percentage (.922) were both better than Varlamov’s. Yes, he played fewer games, but his numbers were definitely encouraging. Interestingly, Pickard faced three fewer shots on average (27) than Varlamov did (30). There could be any number of explanations for this, but it’s just interesting to note. Pickard’s success will mean that the Avalanche have to figure out what to do with Reto Berra.
All in all, the Avalanche goaltending was just okay. But on a team that struggles as much as they have defensively, and when the team has a season where they really struggled to score goals consistently, the goalies have to be better than okay. Otherwise, you’ll be right where the Avalanche are at the end of the season, golfing.
I’m a Denver native who has been a fan of the Avalanche since they came to town and a fan of the game before that. I started writing my own blog a couple years ago before moving to Bleacher Report and becoming a Featured Columnist there. You can also find me the Burgundy Brigade Podcast